Royal Mail Issues Celebrate Works of Charles Dickens

Celebrating the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, on June 19, 2012 the British Royal Mail issued ten stamps along with other philatelic items featuring some of his best known characters.

Born of modest means on February 7, 1812, Dickens became an international celebrity in his own day and is in modern times is ranked among the English language's premier story tellers. At the age of 12, with his family in debtors' prison, he was sent to work for a time in a shoe blacking factory, an experience which he attributed as having a significant influence on his work. He championed the plight of the poor and his novels frequently featured child protagonists.

Dickens was immensely popular in his own time. Much of his most famous work originally appeared in serial installments in literary journals - a style which he both pioneered and mastered. There are reports of fans crowding the docks waiting for the latest chapter to arrive, and of groups of unlettered paupers pooling their money to hire someone to read the stories aloud.

In all, the Royal Mail's 2012 Dickens issues total ten stamps - a series of six stamps and a miniature sheet with an additional four stamps.

The stamp series includes 2nd and 1st class rates and denominations to £1.90. The individual stamps measure 27 x 37mm. It is made up of color illustrations from the book "Character Sketches from Charles Dickens," by Joseph Clayton Clarke (better known by the pseudonym Kyd). Although published in 1890, almost 20 years after the novelist's death, Kyd's larger-than-life illustrations epitomize for many the rich characters of Dickens' stories.

2nd Class - Mr. Bumble from Oliver Twist
1st Cass - Mr. Pickwick from The Pickwick Papers
77p - The Little Marchioness from The Old Curiosity Shop
87p - Mrs. Gamp from Martin Chuzzlewit
£1.28 - Captain Cuttle from Dombey and Son
£1.90 - Mr. Micawber from David Copperfield

The miniature sheet measures 190 x 67mm with individual stamps measuring 37 x 35mm. All of the stamps in the sheet pay the 1st class rate. It features illustrations by Hablot Knight Brown (better known by the pseudonym Phiz). The black and white Phiz illustrations are from the first editions of Nicholas Nickleby, Bleak House, Little Dorrit and A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens and Phiz had a long standing artistic relationship, and the illustrator is credited with bringing the characters to life and helping to reach a broader audience.

In addition to the stamps and miniature sheet, Royal Mail issued a Presentation Pack containing the stamp set and miniature sheet, a set of 11 stamp cards, two First Day Covers, and a Coin Cover.

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